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Eileen Murray ’93 coaches junior girls’ national ultimate Frisbee team to bronze medal

When Eileen Murray ’93 began playing club rugby her junior year at Lafayette, she became club president. There was only one problem – none of the students knew how to play.

“I had to figure it out and lead the team,” says Murray. “We got a coach, but I also helped run practices and teach skills. It helped me realize that not only did I like leading a team, but I was pretty good at it, too!”

Her coaching skills helped the national junior girls’ ultimate Frisbee team capture a bronze medal on a world stage. The team mounted a comeback victory by scoring five points in a row against Colombia.

“The girls never gave up and pulled it out at the end,” she says. “It was so great to see the heart and spirit of the girls, and then to stand on the podium with them was amazing.”

That spirit her team embodies is a distinctive part of the game that makes ultimate Frisbee different from other sports.

“Ultimate is great because of a unique aspect called ‘spirit of the game,’” says Murray. “Even at the highest competitive levels, the players are expected to call their own fouls and abide by good sportsmanship. It is the perfect sport to teach younger players. It builds character, community, and a strong sense of responsibility for one’s actions.”

Murray’s passion for ultimate Frisbee has been a large part of her life since her first year at Lafayette, where she played with the men’s team for a season before making the switch to rugby. After moving to Arizona, she took up ultimate again and has been playing and coaching ever since. She taught a high school boys’ team for five years, leading to a position as youth coordinator for Ultimate Players Association (UPA), the U.S. governing body for the sport. She moved to Athens, Ga., to attend University of Georgia and coached its women’s team for three years.

The junior girls’ national team has a roster of 21 players ranging in age from 15-19. It assembles every two to three years with tryouts each time. Murray plans to apply to the UPA to coach the team again.

“The most rewarding thing was to help a group of 21 strangers become a team,” she says. “We did a lot of team building and self reflection to get to know each other. By the end, they were working so hard for each other; it was as if they had been playing together for years. It’s also amazing to see young people figure out how to compete, overcome disappointment, and rise to new levels.”

It’s a feeling she first had on the Quad at Lafayette.

“Ultimate Frisbee opened me up to another group of people on campus,” says the mathematics graduate. “I really loved trying new things and meeting new people. It connected me to younger people on campus and hopefully impacted their college careers as well.”

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